President Zelenskyy to Address Congress as Lawmakers Praise Ukraine's 'Resilience and Determination'

“The Congress, our country and the world are in awe of the people of Ukraine,” Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer said in inviting Zelenskyy to speak on Wednesday


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will give a speech to members of the U.S. Congress on Wednesday amid Russia's ongoing war against his country, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced in a joint statement Monday.

"The Congress, our country and the world are in awe of the people of Ukraine, who have shown extraordinary courage, resilience and determination in the face of Russia's unprovoked, vicious, and illegal war," the Democratic party leaders said. "As war rages on in Ukraine, it is with great respect and admiration for the Ukrainian people that we invite all Members of the House and Senate to attend a Virtual Address to the United States Congress delivered by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine."

Wednesday's speech comes some two weeks after Zelenskyy, 44, joined a video call with more than 280 U.S. lawmakers on March 5 to make an impassioned plea for support and an embargo on Russian oil — one of many meetings Zelenskyy has had with other leaders.

Since then, President Joe Biden announced a U.S. ban on "all imports of Russian oil and gas and energy" in a move he called "another powerful blow to [Russia's] war machine."

Zelenskyy's goal of securing additional fighter jets, however, has not been met.

The Biden administration rejected an offer from Poland last week that would have allowed the U.S. to transfer the country's fleet of war planes to Ukraine, citing the likelihood that Russia would see it as an escalatory act.

"We do not believe Poland's proposal is a tenable one," the Pentagon press secretary said in a statement after Poland announced its offer to provide planes in exchange for U.S.-made replacements.

The U.S. has likewise resisted the idea of enforcing a "no-fly zone" in Ukraine — which would entail possible air combat with Russia — as it could risk broadening the conflict to more countries.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky

Senators from both parties have asked Biden to reconsider the airpower deal.

"We urge your administration to work with Poland and our NATO allies to expedite the transfer of urgently-needed airpower, air defense systems and other combat and support capabilities from the United States, NATO allies, and other European partners to Ukraine," Republicans wrote to the president in a letter Thursday.

Nearly 60 members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus spoke in favor of accepting the offer again on Sunday. "We urge assistance to help facilitate this deal, commit to replenishing our allies' fleets with American-made aircraft and help advance the transfer of [other] aircraft to Ukraine as well," the group of Democrats and Republicans said.

Congress approved $14 billion in spending for Ukraine last week, the bulk of it allocated for the Defense Department to replenish equipment, provide humanitarian aid and to support the country's infrastructure and information war efforts, according to NBC News.

"The Congress remains unwavering in our commitment to supporting Ukraine as they face Putin's cruel and diabolical aggression, and to passing legislation to cripple and isolate the Russian economy as well as deliver humanitarian, security and economic assistance to Ukraine," Pelosi and Schumer said in announcing Zelenskyy's appearance before Congress this week.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy
President Zelensky. BERTRAND GUAY/AFP via Getty

"We look forward to the privilege of welcoming President Zelenskyy's address to the House and Senate," they said, "and to convey our support to the people of Ukraine as they bravely defend democracy."

Russia's attack on Ukraine continues after their forces launched a large-scale invasion on Feb. 24 — the first major land conflict in Europe in decades.

Details of the fighting change by the day, but scores of civilians have already been reported dead or wounded, including children.

"You don't know where to go, where to run, who you have to call. This is just panic," Liliya Marynchak, a 45-year-old teacher in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, told PEOPLE of the moment her city was bombed — one of numerous accounts of bombardment by the Russians.

The invasion, ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, has drawn condemnation around the world and increasingly severe economic sanctions against Russia.

With NATO forces massing in the region around Ukraine, various countries have also pledged aid or military support to the resistance. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for peace talks — so far unsuccessful — while urging his country to fight back.

Putin insists Ukraine has historic ties to Russia and he is acting in the best security interests of his country. Zelenskyy vowed not to bend.

"Nobody is going to break us, we're strong, we're Ukrainians," he told the European Union in a speech in the early days of the fighting, adding, "Life will win over death. And light will win over darkness."

The Russian attack on Ukraine is an evolving story, with information changing quickly. Follow PEOPLE's complete coverage of the war here, including stories from citizens on the ground and ways to help.

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